Running for a Cause: Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve had a goal to run the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k since I started running. I’ve done the 5k and 10k during the race, but the 25k waits for me to tackle it. Plus, I’ve done most of the major races in my area that were on my “bucket list.” When I saw that the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan was one of the charity partners, I knew this was it. This was my year to run — for me and for my family.

So, I’ve committed to running with the ALZ Stars to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, I’ve been asked to give the gift of my time to help move this cause forward — a gift I’m happy to give, as often as I can.

Because Alzheimer’s is an important disease people don’t understand. A disease I don’t understand — but through my learning process and personal experiences, I think I can help other people understand. At least a little. I think I can do good and spread awareness to help people realize that Alzheimer’s Disease isn’t just about forgetting where you put your keys. It’s a sickness that robs people of the things that make them who they are; it robs people of the ones they love. And there’s nothing you can do to cure it once you have it.

Alzheimer’s claims victims — young and old. Those who have the disease and those who love the person who has the disease. Alzheimer’s wears many, many faces. And two of those faces belong to two of the most important people in my life: My parents.

Mom and Dad

Two of the biggest lights in my life: Dad and Mom.

My father was diagnosed when he was 59 with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Needless to say, his life was turned upside down. But Mom? Her life, too, has changed dramatically. Instead of a partner to walk by her side for the rest of her life, my father will become dependent on her for everything from getting dressed to knowing which dinner plate is his — and everything in between.

So, here’s my spiel:

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to run for a very important cause and one near and dear to my heart. Alzheimer’s Disease is so much more than people understand — and it touches so many more lives than anyone can imagine.

People don’t talk about Alzheimer’s Disease. Or, at least, they don’t talk enough. It’s almost something they’re ashamed of, like it’s their fault — caregivers and those with the disease. Many suffer in silence. They don’t talk about the hurt, the fear, the anger, the doubt, the hate, the love, the strength. They don’t talk about the changes and the surprises — both good and bad. They don’t talk about moments of clarity and moments of complete hopelessness.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. There are drugs that can help slow the progression of symptoms of the disease. But, inevitably, the disease will slowly steal all the pieces of someone’s life until there’s no life left in them. Research, studies, trials — these things are key to figuring out how to stop this disease from stealing any more precious memories and important moments.

It’s important the people understand this disease so they realize that there isn’t shame in it and we can’t hide because of it. We must talk about it so people understand it, so they see the importance of the research and they appreciate the difficulties of not only having Alzheimer’s Disease but of loving someone with Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Disease has a face; it has a name. It’s not just a list of symptoms, it is a person and a story.

My final message? To put it simply, Alzheimer’s Disease changes your life. Nothing is ever the same for the person diagnosed with this disease and for the people who love them. And, once you hear those words, “Alzheimer’s Disease,” there’s no going back — and going forward is hard. But all you can do is wake up every morning, smile and thank God for the moments you have together and get on with your day, taking it all one step at a time — together.

The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support to all of those affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. I’m running as an ALZ Star to work toward “A World Without Alzheimer’s.” And I’d love your help to get there.

This year, I run for my dad. I run for my mom. I run for myself and my siblings and my family. I run for every single person who feels helpless against this terrible disease.

I understand that money’s tight. And I understand that it may not be possible for you to donate. That’s OK. But, if you would, please keep me and my family in your thoughts as I work to raise money for this important cause. And, please forgive me if you see a couple more posts about this over the next six months.

And, do me one more favor? Spend a little extra time making memories, giving hugs and sharing laughs with the people you love. Because life is too short to miss out on one second of love, one second of joy.

Me with my parents

Dad and Mom give me one last group hug before I walk down the aisle toward Mr. B in September.

And for those of you who know me and my family personally, I do ask for your patience — and discretion — as we all work our way through what this diagnosis means to us as individuals and to us as a whole. Some of us aren’t ready to talk about it yet. Some of us aren’t ready to even accept it yet. So, please, keep us in your thoughts — but allow us some privacy. When we’re ready to talk, we will. (And by “we,” I don’t mean me. Because — as evidenced by my whole blog — the way I deal with anything is to write and talk and share. It’s too hard for me to remain silent.)

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Running for a Cause: Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. wendy warren

    You are going to raise much awareness with this!

    Like

  2. Thank you for being part of our team Kim!

    Like

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